United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
KIMBERLY BUFFKIN and ERIC RICHARDSON, in his capacity as Guardian ad Litem for OP, Plaintiffs,
MARUCHAN, INC., and TOYO SUISAN KAISHA, LTD., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM L. OSTEEN, Jr., District Judge.
Plaintiffs Kimberly Buffkin ("Buffkin" and Eric Richardson in his capacity as guardian ad litem for OP ("OP" (collectively "Plaintiffs" commenced this action by filing a Complaint in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, Forsyth County, North Carolina, against Defendants Maruchan, Inc. ("Maruchan") and Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd. ("Toyo") (collectively "Defendants"). (Complaint ("Compl.") (Doc. 7).) Defendant Maruchan removed the action to federal court on January 6, 2014 based on diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal (Doc. 1).)
In the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Maruchan is a subsidiary of Toyo. (Compl. (Doc. 7) at 1.) In the Notice of Removal, Maruchan states that:
It is believed that Defendant Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd. is a Japanese corporation, with its principal place of business also being in Japan. For the purposes of diversity jurisdiction, Defendant Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd. is therefore believed to be a foreign corporation and a citizen of Japan for the purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Though it is unclear at the present time as to whether Defendant Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd. has been properly joined and served in this matter, counsel for Maruchan has also been retained to represent Defendant Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd. and represents to the Court that it will not object to the removal of this matter.
(Notice of Removal (Doc. 5) at 4 (internal citations omitted).) Also on January 6, 2014, Attorneys Leslie P. Lasher and J. Matthew Little filed Notices of Appearances (Docs. 2, 4) on behalf of both Maruchan and Toyo. Other than consenting to removal, Toyo has not made any other filings in this matter. Therefore, this court refers only to Maruchan and not "Defendants" in this Order.
Presently before this court are three motions: (1) Maruchan's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11), (2) Maruchan's Motion to Add Necessary Party (Doc. 13), and (3) Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. 14). This court has carefully considered the motions and all supporting briefs filed by both parties. For the reasons stated fully below, this court will deny all three motions.
Plaintiffs filed the present action to recover damages resulting from OP allegedly being burned by a spill of instant soup produced by Maruchan. In May 2011, Buffkin purchased a carton of Maruchan Instant Lunch ("Instant Lunch"). (Compl. (Doc. 7) ¶ 24.) That same month, OP's father allegedly prepared the Instant Lunch as directed by adding boiling water to the Styrofoam cup that holds the instant lunch. (Id. ¶ 32.) Plaintiffs allege that, because of a design defect in the Styrofoam packaging, OP's infant nephew tipped the Instant Lunch which then spilled on OP and severely burned her. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 33-34.) Plaintiffs contend that Maruchan knew or should have known that the design of their Instant Lunch packaging was dangerous and defective and are, therefore, responsible for OP's injuries and subsequent medical expenses. (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiffs initiated the present action against Maruchan and Toyo to recover medical and other related costs stemming from Defendants' alleged design defect and negligence. (Id. ¶ 45.)
Maruchan moves this court to both (1) dismiss Plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages (Doc. 11) and (2) add OP's father, Jason A. Powell ("Powell"), as a necessary party (Doc. 13). Plaintiffs move this court to remand the action back to state court based on Plaintiffs' allegations that Maruchan's Petition for Removal was not timely. (Doc. 14.)
A. Motion to Dismiss Claim for Punitive Damages
Maruchan filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11) and Memorandum in Support of the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 12) on January 17, 2014. Maruchan argues that Plaintiffs did not properly assert a claim for punitive damages in their complaint, but simply asked for punitive damages in their prayer for relief. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' Punitive Damage Claim ("Def.'s Mem.") (Doc. 12) at 3.) On February 10, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Voluntary Withdrawal of Punitive Damages Claim. (Notice of Withdrawal (Doc. 18).) With this Notice, Plaintiffs seek to withdraw their claims for punitive damages while reserving the right to replead the claims should discovery reveal facts supporting such a claim. (Id. at 2.) Maruchan consents to Plaintiffs' voluntary withdrawal without prejudice to their punitive damages claim. (Def.'s Notice of Consent to Voluntary Dismissal (Doc. 20).) In light of Plaintiffs' withdrawal of the punitive damages claim with consent from Maruchan, this court will deny Maruchan's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11) as it is rendered moot and will allow dismissal of Plaintiffs' punitive damage claim without prejudice.
B. Motion to Add Necessary Party
On January 23, 2014, Maruchan filed a Motion to Add Necessary Party pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 19, or in the alterative, Fed.R.Civ.P. 20. (Doc. 13.) Maruchan requests this court order or allow the addition of James A. Powell as a necessary party in the present action. Upon information and belief, Powell ...